January 2010

Majority of U.S. disapproves of marrying atheists

January 21 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Most Americans accept interracial marriage, but many people of faith say they would be troubled by a family member’s decision to marry an atheist, the Pew Research Center reports.

Seven in 10 Americans associated with a religion said they would either be bothered, but come to accept such a marriage (43 percent) or not ever accept (27 percent) it, the poll found.

Meanwhile, slightly more than a quarter of religious Americans (27 percent) said they “would be fine” with a relative marrying a person who did not believe in God. While black Americans are the most likely to accept interracial marriage, among people of faith, they are more uncomfortable with marriage to an atheist compared to whites and Hispanics, researchers reported in the study released Jan. 12.

In general, people who attend religious services at least once a week are less likely to approve of marriage to a nonbeliever: 16 percent of weekly worshippers would be fine with a marriage to an atheist, compared to 36 percent of people who attend less frequently.

Among frequent worshippers, whites are less likely than blacks, and far less likely than Hispanics, to approve of marriage to an atheist. Eleven percent of white frequent attenders, compared to 16 percent of blacks and 35 percent of Hispanics, said it would be fine if a relative married a nonbeliever.  
1/21/2010 8:52:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Major aftershock hits Haiti

January 20 2010 by Baptist Global Response

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The five-member BGR assessment team is on the ground in Haiti, driving toward Port-au-Prince. They are accompanied by Mark Rutledge, who has 26 years of experience serving as an International Mission Board worker in Haiti. The team will be connecting with Haitian Baptist leaders, surveying earthquake damage, and delivering relief supplies.

A strong aftershock measuring 6.1 in magnitude struck Port-au-Prince at 6:03 a.m., Jan. 20, according to news reports. The shock sent people scrambling for open ground as buildings damaged by last week’s quake shuddered and rubble began falling to the ground. Eyewitnesses said people already traumatized by the horrors of the past week cried and screamed at the new tremor. More than 40 significant aftershocks have hit since the Jan. 12 quake.

Members of the assessment team reported they did not feel the aftershock at their base in the Dominican Republic. However, Steve Leach, a member of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Mo., who operates an independent hospital in northwest Haiti, reported the aftershock “brought down some of the damaged buildings that were still standing and will keep anyone from going back to what buildings are still standing for many days to come.  With so many severe aftershocks over the last week and now another new quake, who knows when people who have a place to go will feel safe to return there.”

Leach said about 1,200 refugees have come to the hospital for treatment and he has been sending trucks into the capital to look for survivors with family who live near the hospital.

“We live in a place that is about as far from the capital as you can get and still be in Haiti and yet we have watched these very poor people trying desperately to figure out a way to get their family members out here so they can take care of them,” Leach said. “The truck drivers are less and less willing to (drive into the city) as the situation in Port deteriorates.”

Relief efforts are struggling to get essential relief supplies to hundreds of thousands of desperate people, but destroyed infrastructure and disorganization are hampering the effort. Officials are concerned that the desperation people feel will boil over into violence. Looters by the hundreds have been fighting each other with broken bottles, clubs and other weapons over whatever goods they can still find in damaged stores.

“Pray specifically for God to give those in control wisdom to direct the relief effort,” Leach said. 

Related stories
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Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
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1/20/2010 7:52:00 AM by Baptist Global Response | with 2 comments



No easy predictions for Baptists’ next 400 years

January 20 2010 by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press

WACO, Texas — Nobody can predict with certainty what the next 400 years hold for Baptists — or for any religious denomination, church historian Martin Marty told a recent gathering at Baylor University.

But Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School and longtime Christian Century columnist, offered general observations based on history and trends as he spoke on “The Future of a Denomination: Baptists in the Next 400 Years.” The Jan. 17-18 event was scheduled as part of the Texas Baptist university’s recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement.

Marty characterized denominations — as distinct from a single state church — as a “four-century-old Anglo-American invention” and noted Baptists were “present at the creation.” While some observers ask if denominations in their present form are dead or dying, Marty asserted that “structurally, functionally, something would likely fill its role.”

Baylor photo by Robert Rogers

Martin Marty speaks at Baylor University.


What’s true for denominations in general undoubtedly would prove true for the Baptist movement, he suggested, but he cautioned against making confident predictions. He cited as a guiding text a line from a speech by Abraham Lincoln: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” “This means cautious projection and the describing of alternative scenarios for life in the future,” he said. “The latter must relate to the Baptist visions and embrace of Christian faith, hope and love. Praxis follows.”

What, where and how
Marty offered a series of “where-and-whither” questions followed by “what-and-how” application on a variety of subjects:
  • Identity. Regarding the essence of the distinctive Baptist tradition, Marty confessed, “I have not found the essence of Baptisthood.”
However, he suggested, a clue to the historically central feature of the Baptist movement lies in its name.

“Believers’ baptism by immersion was the most visible mark of being a Baptist,” he said, pointing to its “branding” nature. But the commitment to following religious convictions and living those convictions out with integrity preceded the mode and method of baptism.

Separatists and others “backed into” their understanding of believers’ baptism, he asserted. “It was so exceptional, unsettled and branding that it became central to the story and provided the name,” he said.

Marty observed less attention today given to the meaning of believers’ baptism among Baptists — particularly as it relates to daily living and ethics — than in some places and times. He also pointed to a decline in baptisms, even in congregations where attendance has increased.
  • Community and autonomy. Baptists long ago “took the risk” in terms of emphasizing individual decision-making in matters of religion, Marty noted. However, he added, historic Baptist convictions about soul liberty and soul competency have been balanced by “the integral tie to community in voluntary association.”
The challenge for the future lies in the “pick-and-choose” nature of individualized spirituality that does not find direction from a religious community, he asserted.
  • Church polity. Observers of church life recognize that regardless of a denomination’s official polity — hierarchical, episcopal, presbyterian, congregational or whatever — “the local wins out,” Marty observed, and “Baptists should be theologically most ready to profit from the trend.”
At the same time, individual Christians, churches and denominations have unprecedented capacity to be involved with other Christians globally through communication technology, he added. Through the Internet, “distance has disappeared,” he noted.
  • Church and state. In some circles “long-held Baptist views on separation of church and state have appeared to be compromised or obscured — or even abandoned,” Marty said.
“The moral crisis, the security crisis, the pluralism crisis — all have led some to conclude we are so far gone that even Baptists have been willing to call on the state to help us do our work,” he said.

How Baptists (as well as what Marty called “Baptist-like traditions”) respond to church-state issues in the future has fateful consequences for their witness in society, he observed.
  • Peoplehood. Baptists, like other Christians, tend to congregate and allow their lives to be shaped to a large degree along lines of social class and race, Marty noted. “Some largely white Baptist groups do better than others at reaching beyond historical bounds, but all confess that they have a long way to go,” he said.
The role of women in the church — particularly in the clergy — remains a crucial issue with which Baptists likely will grapple in the future, he noted.
  • Witness and pluralism. Few Baptists waver in devotion to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, Marty said, but they struggle with how that faith relates to other world religions. “We can’t settle for a casual universalism that says we’re all in different boats headed toward the same shore,” he observed.
At the same time, some Baptists want to avoid holding to the kind of exclusiveness that would cause non-Christians to write them off as narrow bigots more focused on “denouncing each other than hearing each other,” he said.
  • Sex. Baptists’ response to issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality do not relate specifically to Baptist history and impulses — except the Baptist tendency to fight, Marty observed.
  • Conflict. “Baptists, as creative dissenters, were born in conflict and produce conflict,” he said. But Baptists also possess the capacity to provide “a rich and warm home,” he added. “And there are plenty of biblical texts to find direction for that.”
1/20/2010 7:15:00 AM by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Haitian church ‘holds on’ after loss of 4 leaders

January 20 2010 by Alan James, Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A blue tarp tied to what’s left of Shiloh Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, serves as a safe haven for some members who survived the Jan. 12 earthquake.

BP photo

IMB missionary Mark Rutledge prays with members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Several families who lost their homes during the quake are living underneath a blue tarp tied to what’s left of the church building.


A few dozen families who lost their homes are living outside the church under the tarp. The earthquake damaged the building, collapsed the church’s school and took the lives of their pastor, Bienne Lamerique, and three other church leaders. One member said that, of the 2,000-member congregation, only 100 have been accounted for since the 7.0 magnitude quake that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti.

This week, International Mission Board missionaries Dawn Goodwin and Carlos Llambes, Baptists from the Dominican Republic and a missionary from another organization visited Shiloh Baptist and other churches in the area to review damage and encourage members. Many pews at Shiloh Baptist remain overturned and support beams appear to be damaged.

Metal rods in the beams were bent from the shifting weight of the roof during the earthquake. The church building was under construction, so the congregation had been meeting in an open-air auditorium.

Twenty-five-year-old Pierre Anderson and several other church members were in the auditorium when the earthquake hit. A few members were injured, but none seriously, Anderson said. He and the others later learned that their pastor and three other church leaders had died in the disaster; Lamerique died of injuries sustained when his house collapsed.

Anderson and a handful of other church members shared their stories with IMB missionary Mark Rutledge Jan. 18. Rutledge, currently on stateside assignment, is in Haiti to help translate for a media team as they report on the damage.

“We don’t know where our future leaders will come from,” Anderson told the missionary. Rutledge paused while translating for Anderson, who speaks French Creole, the heart language of Haitians. He turned and cried for a moment while members of the congregation watched.

“One of their remaining leaders told them that they just need to hold on a little longer,” said Rutledge, who served in Haiti for 26 years.

When Rutledge and his wife, Peggy, began serving as career missionaries in 1987, the couple attended Lamerique’s first church start, which met in a small house in a Port-au-Prince slum. The Rutledges became close friends and prayer partners with Lamerique and his wife.

BP photo

Members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which lost four key leaders in the Jan. 12 earthquake, gather outside what’s left of their church building. As church members recount stories of that horrific day, they ask for prayer that God will raise up new leaders to guide their church.


Anderson also told Rutledge he lost his two sisters in the earthquake. One of the bodies has yet to be pulled from a collapsed building.

His faith is what is getting him through the crisis, Anderson said.

“It’s been the church’s encouragement that has helped give me strength,” Anderson said. The church has been holding services every day outside the building since the quake. “No matter what happens in life, the only thing that matters is Jesus Christ,” Anderson continued. “If you have faith, He will sustain you.”

“The same God that allowed this to happen can rebuild it,” added Roseman Louis, who lost a cousin and a sister.

For now the church continues to move forward, but Anderson admits they are struggling for direction and to meet physical needs since water, food and other supplies are limited. Thousands of displaced people — like members of Shiloh Baptist Church — are living on the streets, in parks and just about anywhere there is open space. Bodies still can be seen lying on the street or partially exposed in the remains of collapsed buildings.

Amid the dire situation, “a revival could happen...,” Rutledge said. “... If the focus is on Jesus, that kind of change can happen ... a change that is more than skin deep.

“I think there is huge potential for revival,” Rutledge added. “I believe there is hope.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James writes for the International Mission Board.)

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Spoke’n: Finding the first question
Haiti video available
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Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
Haiti response may require $2 million
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1/20/2010 6:02:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chowan to launch graduate elem. ed degree

January 20 2010 by Chowan University

MURFREESBORO — Chowan University will launch a graduate school in the fall of 2010, according to an announcement from the university.

Chowan, one of five colleges affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, has been approved by the Commission on Colleges of the SACS accreditation body to offer a master’s degree in elementary education.

The new program will be offered with employed teachers in mind who are seeking a graduate degree. Classes will be offered at night, on a schedule that allows degree completion in two years. Other master’s level degree offerings will follow in Chowan University’s School of Graduate Studies, in disciplines such as psychological counseling, business administration and sports management.

“The significance of this action cannot be overstated,” said Chowan University President Christopher White. “It is a commendation of Chowan’s academic quality, fiscal soundness and prospects for continued growth.”

This announcement follows closely on the heels of Chowan University reaching a record enrollment, breaking the 1,000 student goal.

For more information on Chowan University’s new School of Graduate Studies and master of education degree in elementary education, contact Chowan Associate Provost Kirk Peterson at peterk@chowan.edu.
1/20/2010 5:58:00 AM by Chowan University | with 0 comments



Nazareth house dates to Jesus’ time

January 20 2010 by Baptist Press

NAZARETH, Israel — Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a dwelling in Nazareth that can be dated back to the time Jesus lived in the area, making it the only known structure to portray what His home may have looked like.

Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority, unveiled the finding to reporters Dec. 21, revealing that workers had uncovered the first signs of the dwelling during the summer as they were digging up the courtyard of a former convent, according to the Associated Press.

The workers were making room for the construction of the International Center of Mary of Nazareth on the site, which is just yards away from the Church of the Annunciation, the location where Mary is believed to have received word of Jesus’ impending birth.

BP photo

Nazareth, Israel


“The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus,” Alexandre said. “The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period.”

Archeologists believe Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres, AP said, and it was populated by Jews of modest means whose dwellings included camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders.

Alexandre said the stone house, which consists of at least four rooms, a courtyard, a water cistern and a small grotto, may have been a place where Jesus and His cousins and friends played as children.

“It’s a logical suggestion,” she said.

The excavation team has chipped away at mud to uncover about 900 square feet of the dwelling, so authorities aren’t yet sure how large it was at the time, when it could have been used as a home for an extended family.

Archeologists believe the home was occupied by a Jewish family because of the discovery of clay and chalk vessels inside. Galilean Jews of the time used chalk to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels, AP reported. The absence of remains of glass vessels or imported products suggests it was a “simple Jewish family,” Alexandre said.

Today Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel, with about 65,000 people, mostly Palestinians. It’s located about 16 miles from the Sea of Galilee in the northern region of Israel.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.)
1/20/2010 5:55:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Guidelines offered for religion in public square

January 20 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — A diverse group of religious and secular leaders unveiled a joint statement Jan. 12 aimed at advancing public understanding about legal rights and limitations on religious expression in the public square.

Led by Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, the document does not advocate what the law should be, but discusses what it actually says. The project evolved from a 2006 meeting where experts, discussing earlier joint statements that helped advance public understanding of rules governing religion in public schools, suggested a consensus statement of what current law says about religious expression in the wider public square, including religion and politics; religious gatherings on governmental property; chaplains in legislative bodies, prisons and the military; and religion in the workplace.

“The drafters’ purpose in crafting this statement is to help foster an accurate understanding of current law and improve our national dialogue on these issues,” said Melissa Rogers, who directs Wake Forest’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs. “While there is disagreement among them about the merits of some of the court decisions and laws mentioned in the document, they agree that current law protects the rights of people to express their religious convictions and practice their faiths on government property and in public life as described in the statement.”

Signers represent a wide swath of Christian, Jewish and Muslim life. Baptists supporting the project include both Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Brent Walker and Holly Hollman of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Rogers said the diverse group often disagrees how the law should affect issues regarding the intersection of religion and government. Some support overturning laws and court decisions cited in the document, while others agree with them. Despite those differences, she said, they agree in many cases on where the law stands today.

“More broadly, they also agree that religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, is a fundamental, inalienable right for all people, religious and nonreligious, and that there is a need to correct misunderstandings about this right,” she said.

The statement said legal rights and responsibilities regarding religious expression in public life are often poorly understood, and the document is an attempt to remedy that problem.

According to the document, the drafters’ purpose in crafting the statement is to provide an accurate understanding of current law.

“We also hope our efforts to find consensus will spur others to engage one another in similar efforts and find common ground,” the drafters continued.

The signers said they hope that their attempt to describe current law as accurately as possible will play a positive role in future debate. “That certainly will not end our debates, but it will help make them more productive,” the document says.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)  
1/20/2010 5:53:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Second NC team into Haiti today

January 19 2010 by BR Staff

A second medical team sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Men is on its way to Haiti today (Jan. 19). Following the lead of the first team last week, they will fly into the Dominican Republic and drive overland into Haiti.

 

The first team, consisting of a doctor, emergency medical technicians and paramedics has been working at a hospital in Haiti since last Friday.

Contributed photo

Two young Haitian men display a banner pleading for help in their decimated neighborhood. Behind them is what's left of a mini-market that collapsed during the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.


The second team, led by Steven Logue of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, consists of 10 people and is carrying many needed medical supplies, according to Richard Brunson, director of N.C. Baptist Men.

 

Brunson and Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator, are working on logistics to extract the first team on Thursday or Friday. The team, led by Jack Frazier of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina, was among the first into Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake disaster and was initially frustrated by restricted flights into the Port-au-Prince airport, before finally traveling overland through Dominican Republic into Haiti.

 

At this stage of disaster relief, the needs are very specialized and primarily medical. He reminded North Carolina Baptists that many volunteers with a variety of skills will be required in the future.

 

“We are looking at being involved in Haiti for a long time,” he said.

 

While many want to help, N.C. Baptist Men is accepting monetary donations only at this time.  

 

“Please continue to pray for the people who were affected by the earthquake and pray for the volunteers who are and will be going to help,” Brunson said.

 

Ironically and tragically, retired senior consultant for music ministry at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Dan Ridley, learned of a friend from his home church in Michigan who was killed lin the quake after arriving in Haiti on a mission trip just one hour earlier.

 

Donate here

 

Send a check marked “Haiti Relief” to: NC Baptist Men, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC  27512


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1/19/2010 8:46:00 AM by BR Staff | with 0 comments



Baptists confront Haiti challenge

January 19 2010 by Barbara Denman and Mickey Noah

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — “There is a desperation here among the Haitians that they are not going to make it through this,” said Dennis Wilbanks of the Florida Baptist Convention after arriving in Port-au-Prince Sunday, Jan. 17.

“No one wants to sleep inside a building for fear they won’t come out of it alive the next morning,” said Wilbanks, a staff member in the convention’s partnership missions department.

Wilbanks and Joseph Gaston, director of the convention’s language Haitian church development department, are in Port-au-Prince to begin the process of determining how Florida Baptists and Southern Baptists across the country can meet needs and provide assistance to the residents of the city devastated by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks Jan. 12.

For Gaston, a native of Port-au-Prince, it began with leading a Haitian woman to faith in Christ while in the airport.

Wilbanks, who directed the Florida convention’s disaster response in Haiti after five previous hurricanes, will be working with seven Haitian employees of the convention who survived the earthquake.

Together they have begun assessing damage within their churches and communities.

“These men have been trained in disaster relief by the Florida Baptist Convention,” said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer. “They know their country, their people and have experience responding in the aftermath of hurricanes. We are grateful to God that they are safe and are there to minister to the Haitian people.”

Wilbanks reported that the convention-owned mission house is severely damaged but may be useable.

“This will be among our first rebuild priority,” Sullivan said, because it will enable volunteer teams for construction and clean-up to deploy more quickly.

The house, located in Port-au-Prince between the airport and city, will be the base of operations for the convention’s relief efforts. The mission house sleeps nearly 50 volunteers at a time and provides food and safety for mission teams traveling into Haiti.

“We anticipate having a word this week about our churches in Port-au-Prince as well as our pastors’ homes,” Sullivan added. “These are our brothers and sisters serving Christ in this difficult nation.”

Florida Baptists’ 15-year partnership with Haiti Baptists has resulted in the starting of 892 congregations across the nation.

Bruce Poss, the North American Mission Board’s national disaster relief coordinator for a year, said he’s “a little nervous but I know I’m where God wants me to be and doing what God wants me to do. And that’s a good place to be. I don’t go there alone, but with God’s purpose.”

“I realize it’s dangerous there,” said Poss, referring to security concerns in Haiti, as evidenced by reported roaming mobs of looters with machetes and those simply frustrated by the lack of food, water and medical care — plus the inability to recover and bury the thousands of dead.

“Right now, it’s very chaotic,” Poss said, “and violence is still on the increase. While more and more military are arriving by the day, we don’t want to send our volunteers into a place that’s not secure.”

Poss, who worked at Ground Zero in New York City and remembers the unforgettable stench of death following 9/11, is sure he’ll witness firsthand similar horrors in Haiti.

The assessment teams are scheduled to spend this week in Haiti. Returning to Miami, they will be joined by Caison and others to report their findings and begin mapping out a long-term strategy for a comprehensive Southern Baptist response to the earthquake.

“Even still in Miami, we hope to set some stuff into motion with the state disaster relief teams,” Poss said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention; Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)    

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1/19/2010 2:53:00 AM by Barbara Denman and Mickey Noah | with 0 comments



GPS: An ‘audacious’ vision to reach America

January 19 2010 by Jerry Pipes, NAMB, Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team

Once again, Southern Baptists have accepted the challenge to reach North America with the gospel.

God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) is very simply a dream — every believer sharing, every person hearing. To put it even more succinctly, GPS is the vision of fulfilling the Great Commission in North America by 2020. Just like Bold Mission Thrust of a generation ago, GPS is an audacious vision.

The first step on this journey is called “Across North America.” The goal is to reach every home in the United States and Canada through prayer walking, gospel distribution, and an invitation to attend church on Easter Sunday. It’s the first of six, two-year campaigns that will carry GPS through 2020.

North Carolina Baptist evangelism leaders are promoting a customized version of GPS called “Find it here.” North Carolina specific resources are available from the evangelism office at (919) 459-5557 or at www.finditherenc.org.

Across North America in 2010 consists of four simple components:
  • A three-week targeted media saturation taking place March 20 through April 11 (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, etc).
  • Participating churches prayer walking their communities on the weekend of March 20.
  • Participating churches on March 27 distributing clear bags containing a “Find It Here” gospel drop-in piece and an invitation to Easter services to each home in their surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Participating churches conducting a five-week follow-up process after Easter.
I’m often asked, “How can something so simple make such a big difference?”

When you get God’s people to do God things, He shows up and makes a huge Kingdom difference.

A great example is a church that participated in one of four GPS pilot projects last spring. At the time they were running about 300 in Bible study.

BP photo

Segey Tseona, left, a member of Lifeway Baptist Church, a Russian-speaking church in Philadelphia, discusses the gospel with a shopper.


The pastor had lost his vision, and the church was in decline. Seventy-five members joined the pastor in prayer walking the community. As they prayer walked, God broke their hearts for their community and a new vision was born. Instead of just hanging the bags on the doors, the members engaged lost people in the community as God opened doors for conversation.

The vision didn’t stop there. Those who participated began to recognize opportunities to share the gospel in their circles of influence.

To make a long story short, they had their largest attendance in 10 years on Easter Sunday and baptized 19 people.

Imagine what would happen if 50,000 Southern Baptist churches and missions joined hands and hearts and moved “Across North America” together. We would touch every home in North America with the gospel, millions would begin relationships with Christ, families would be restored and communities and churches would be transformed.

Author Tim Sanders captures the spirit of GPS: Across North America in his bestseller, Saving the World at Work.

Sanders recalls the story of Steve, who heard Tim’s challenge, “If there are people in your life who are important to you, and you haven’t given them sufficient recognition in the last three months, shame on you. If you have reduced your relationships to e-mail threads, shame on you.”

Steve managed nine engineers and felt guilty about the lack of personal interaction he had with them. So, he met with all nine and shared a word of praise for something related to their job performance. He also encouraged them in their personal lives and appreciated them as individuals.

Two days after Steve’s round of encouragement, Lenny entered Steve’s cubicle with a gift: an Xbox along with a video game. Steve was thrilled but wondered how Lenny could afford such a lavish gift. He was stunned when Lenny told him, “I sold my chrome-plated 9mm semiautomatic.”

He continued, “I’ve worked here two years, and if I died, you would only find out from payroll... That’s how disconnected I thought you were from me ... I don’t have a single friend in the company.”

Lenny said his only friend was the Internet, and it was there he found the “suicide chat rooms.”

Lenny had started a three-month process of preparing himself to pull the trigger.

“I was almost there... Then the other day ... you came into my cubicle,” Lenny whispered. “You told me, ‘Lenny, I’m glad you came into my life.’”

That very day, Lenny sold the gun and bought the Xbox. With tears streaming down his face he said, “Sir, in exchange for my life, my soul, this gift is for you.”

GPS: Across North America and the story of Steve and Lenny are alike. They call for urgency and simplicity. There are Lennys all around us. They are our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Their need is urgent and not complicated.

They quickly need a word of encouragement and the simple message of the gospel.

May God use GPS: Across North America to move Southern Baptists to live and share with urgency. This is the first step of what will be one of the most exciting journeys we as Southern Baptists will ever take.
 

To find out more about how your church can connect with GPS nationally, contact Sarah Whitfield at swhitfield@namb.net or (770) 410-6390. Also visit www.gps2020.net.  

Praying across North America
You’re invited to pray for every heart and every mile of North America, focusing specifically on those who need a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here are some ways you can prepare:
  1. Pray with insight. Be aware of where you are praying. What do you see along the way? Do you see children’s toys? Then pray for that family. Do you see a street lamp? Pray that people will discover the light of Christ and that believers will be a light to the world.
  2. Pray with intentionality. While we should always be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit leads us to pray, March 20 is a day to intentionally pray for those who need a personal relationship with Christ. Begin now to pray specifically for those in your community who need to hear the gospel.
  3. Pray with the heart of an intercessor. An intercessor is someone who “stands in the gap” — a gap between one person and their need for God or for God to work in their life. As people prayer walk, look for opportunities to pray with people for people’s needs.
  4. Pray with information. Do you know who lives in your community? How many single parents are there? What kind of crime rate is in your community? What unreached people groups live in your town? Be open to learning about the “hidden” needs in your community.
  5. Pray with inspiration. Prayer walk with scripture verses. Pray God’s promises.
  6. Pray for the impossible and expect God to answer. Don’t limit God and His ability to answer prayer. Pray big. Pray for those who are lost with faith that God can redeem anyone. (Ephesians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:6) 
Related story
10 steps for implementing GPS
1/19/2010 2:35:00 AM by Jerry Pipes, NAMB, Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team | with 0 comments



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